Saturday, November 04, 2006

Seraphic Singles

A new blog for Catholic singles. She should add a link to Dawn Eden's blog.

Politics: The Eighty Percent Pay Cut

Politics: The Eighty Percent Pay Cut

by John Michael Greer

Alf Hornborg, The Power of the Machine

Regardless of whether the book and this essay based on the book are simplistic or not...

Our economic arrangements and the consequences of that economy are certainly worth investigating for anyone who cares about political life. Surely we cannot merely be complacent and assume that "all is ok with the world" while enjoying the benefits of the system.

Are cries that the wealth of certain First World countries is gained through injustice false? Should we be allowed to exploit as we please, so long as we can find those who are willing to be exploited?

[When will certain Catholics stop being apologists for the oligarchy...]

The dependence of the American standard of living on these patterns of unequal exchange goes far, I think, to explain the remarkable meekness of the political left in this country over the last few decades. It’s one thing to talk about bringing fairness and justice into the world economy, and quite another to face up to the consequences. Again, oil makes a rough but workable surrogate for wealth as a whole. If the United States were to abandon the patterns of unequal exchange that support its current standards of living, its citizens would face something like an 80% reduction in wealth and access to resources.

Put that in everyday terms and the political implications are hard to miss. Imagine that a candidate for public office launched her campaign with a speech announcing that if she were elected, everyone in the country would suffer a permanent 80% pay cut, while prices, interest rates, and outstanding debt would remain as they were before the cut took effect. The pay cut would bite deeper with each passing year, too, to make up for the effects of resource depletion. How many people would vote for such a platform? Would you?

(I wonder if this is worth a look: The World System and The Earth System
Global Socioenvironmental Change and Sustainability Since the Neolithic)

Father Cantalamessa on Priorities

Father Cantalamessa on Priorities

Pontifical Household Preacher on Sunday's Liturgical Readings

ROME, NOV. 3, 2006 ( Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from this Sunday's liturgy.

* * *

Love the Lord your God
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (b)
Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 12:28b-34

One day one of the scribes came to Jesus asking him which was the first commandment of the law and Jesus answered, citing the words of the law: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind, and with your whole strength." But Jesus immediately added that there is a second commandment similar to this, and it is to "love your neighbor as yourself."

If we are to understand the meaning of the scribe's question and Jesus' response, we need to bear in mind the following. In the Judaism of Jesus' time there were two opposite tendencies.

On the one hand there was a tendency to endlessly multiply the commandments and precepts of the law, creating norms and obligations for every minimal detail of life. On the other hand there was the desire to look underneath this suffocating congeries of norms to find those things that really count for God, the spirit of all the commandments.

The scribe's question and Jesus' response are situated in this approach to the essentials of the law, in this desire not to get lost in the thousand other secondary precepts. It is precisely this lesson about method that above all we must learn from today's gospel. There are things in life that are important but not urgent (in the sense that nothing will happen if we let them slide); and vice versa, there are things that are urgent but not important. The danger is that we will systematically sacrifice the important things to pursue those that are urgent but often secondary.

How do we avoid this danger? A story will help us understand how. One day an old professor was asked to speak as an expert to some large North American corporations on personal time management. He decided to try an experiment. Standing before a group ready to take notes, he pulled out from under the table a large, empty glass vase. He placed a dozen tennis-ball-size rocks in the vase until it was full. When he was not able to add more rocks he asked those present: "Does the vase seem full to you?" and they all answered "Yes!" He waited a moment and then asked: "Are you sure?"

He again bent down and pulled a box full of pebbles from under the table and carefully poured the pebbles into the vase, moving the vase a little so that the pebbles could reach the rocks at the very bottom. He asked: "Is the vase full this time?"

His audience, having become more prudent, began to understand and said: "Perhaps not yet." "Very good!" the old professor replied. Again he bent down and this time picked up a bag of sand and poured it into the vase with care. The sand filled all the spaces between the rocks and the pebbles.

He then asked again: "Is the vase full now?" And they all answered without hesitation: "No!" "Indeed," the old professor said and, as they expected, took the pitcher of water from the table and poured it into the vase up to the brim.

At this point he looked up at his audience and asked: "What great truth does this experiment show us?" The bravest of the group, reflecting on the theme of the course -- time management -- replied: "This shows us that even when our schedule is full, with a little effort we can always add some other task, some other thing to do."

"No," the professor answered, "It's not that. The experiment shows us something else. If you don't put the big rocks in the vase first, then you will never be able to put them in afterward."

There was a moment of silence and everyone took in the evidence for this affirmation.

The professor continued: "What are the big rocks, the priorities, in your life? Health? Family? Friends? Defending a cause? Accomplishing something that is close to your heart?

"The important thing is to put these big rocks on your agenda first. If you give priority to a thousand other little things -- the pebbles, the sand -- your life will be filled with meaninglessness and you will never find time to dedicate yourself to the truly important things.

"So, never forget to pose this question to yourself: 'What are the important things in my life?' Put these things at the head of your agenda."

Then, with a friendly gesture the old professor bid farewell to his audience and left the room.

To the "big rocks" mentioned by the professor -- health, family, friends -- we need to add two others, which are the biggest of all, the two greatest commandments: love God and your neighbor.

Truly, loving God, more than a commandment, is a privilege, a concession. If one day we find him, we will not cease to thank God for commanding us to love him and we will not desire to do anything else but cultivate this love.

Pope's Oct. 23 Address to University Students

From the talk:

I would like to stress also on this occasion, as I have had the opportunity to do at various meetings with priests and seminarians, the primary importance of the spiritual life and the necessity to foster, along with cultural growth, a balanced human maturity and a profound ascetic and religious formation.

Whoever wants to be a friend of Jesus and become his authentic disciple - be it seminarian, priest, Religious or lay person - must cultivate an intimate friendship with him in meditation and prayer. The deepening of Christian truths and the study of theology and other religious disciplines presupposes an education to silence and contemplation, because one must become capable of listening to God speaking in the heart.

Thought must always be purified to be able to enter the dimension where God pronounces his creative and redemptive Word; his Word "comes out of silence", to use the beautiful expression of St Ignatius of Antioch (Letter To the Magnesians, VIII, 2). Only if it is born from the silence of contemplation can our words have some value and usefulness, and not resemble the inflated discourses of the world that seek the consensus of public opinion.

The student who studies in an ecclesiastical institute must therefore be disposed to obedience to the truth and so cultivate a special ascesis of thought and word. This ascesis is based on loving familiarity with the Word of God and, I would say even more so, on that "silence" from which the Word originates in the dialogue of love between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. Also, we have access to such a dialogue through the holy humanity of Christ.

Therefore, dear friends, as the disciples of the Lord did, ask him: Master, "teach us to pray" (Lk 11: 1), and also: teach us to think, to write and to speak, because they are strictly connected.

Flanders Recorder Quartert

I've been to one of their performances for the BEMF before, not the last one, but the one before that, iirc. This is a program I would enjoy, but I don't know if I will be able to attend the concert tonight...

Flanders Recorder Quartet

Susan Hamilton
, soprano

The Darke is My Delight
English Consort Songs During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth

Boston Early Music Festival opens its 2006-2007 season with the return of the Flanders Recorder Quartet, who have astounded international audiences and critics alike with their “blazing speed, the sharpest ensemble precision and rhythm, intensely present sound, flawless intonation, clear and compelling phrasing, and a startling range of dynamics” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal). The four players—Bart Spanhove, Han Tol, Joris Van Goethem, and Paul Van Loey—and their magnificent collection of 150 recorders are joined by Scottish soprano Susan Hamilton for a program exploring the ethereal melancholy and melting harmonies of 16th-century English songs by William Byrd, John Dowland, and Thomas Morley on texts by William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. Raised in the inspiring musical environment provided by her father Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth was passionate about music and cultivated the consort song in our court. The songs’ strikingly beautiful texts, expressive melodies, and floating rhythms symbolized the ideal of courtly love and showed a longing for refinement among England’s large and wealthy aristocracy, resulting in some of the most wonderful music ever created in England’s history.

Visit the Flanders Recorder Quartet website

Listen to Flanders Recorder Quartet (Anonymous: Estampie, Sweelinck: Ballo del granduca, Sweelinck: Pavana Lachrimae)

Read the Artist Biographies [coming soon]

Read the Program and Program Notes

Friday, November 03, 2006

Film About Monastery Wins Award

Film About Monastery Wins Award

BERLIN, NOV. 2, 2006 ( The European Film Academy has awarded a first prize to "Into Great Silence," a film about a Carthusian monastery in France.

The film, entitled "Die grosse Stille" in German, was among the eight finalists in the Documentary 2006-Prix Arte category.

In a citation the academy said: "Philip Gröning's thoughtful film touches on the mystic quality of belief and our need for stillness and silence in contrast to modern life. It appears that the director, with a lot of patience, gained the trust of this enclosed community and returned with amazing images and sounds.

"'Into Great Silence' is a great film about humanity and our shared European background."

The award will be presented during the awards ceremony at Expo XXI in Warsaw on Dec. 2.

The 162-minute film is set in the Grande Chartreuse of Grenoble, France. It narrates with images the daily life of the monks, including liturgical prayer, work, Gregorian chant and community life.

The director Gröning spent six months living the life of the Carthusians.

Amy Welborn passes this along:

Into the Great Silence - the German documentary about Carthusians, which has received rave reviews and drawn big audiences in Europe, finally has a US distributor.

Release timeframe of February or March; I hope they show it wherever I will be at that time...

Interview with Philip Groening

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Interview with Robert Spencer

at FrontpageMag

He discusses his book, The Truth about Muhammad, and of course other related things...

"So say we all"

From Clyde Wilson:

I have known quite a few college presidents, vice-presidents, provosts, deans, etc. In my observation not one of them had any real scholarship or true interest in learning or in students. What they had was an ability to bamboozle the supposedly savvy but actually petty, vain, and clueless tycoons and politicians who were trustees. American education is nothing to be proud of—at any level. Its primary achievement, besides lining the pockets of shysters and perpetuating Political Correctness, is to alienate and demoralize intelligent students.

Edward Feser replies to A. Sullivan on N. Law

regarding, of course, sex.

The reply and resulting discussion.

Judge for yourselves if he gets traditional natural law theory right or if he is adhering to one school of interpretation. Some comments from me if I have the time and inclination...

Photos: Lin Chi-ling

Taiwanese model and actress Lin Chi-ling displays Longines' new BelleArti watch collection, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006, in Taipei, Taiwan. Longines' new BelleArti collection is a tribute to the extraordinarily productive periods of the 1920s. The watch model seen is fitted with diamonds and a quartz movement at USD$2,750. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

I think she is starring in a movie with Chow Yun-fat.

Appearance in shampoo ads.

Latin Requiem Mass to be celebrated at ND

Via Amy Welborn:

The Orestes Brownson Council announces:

November 2006: 11/7/2006 - Latin Requiem Mass with Gregorian Chant

The Notre Dame Gregorian Schola will sing at a Requiem Mass offered by Fr. Neil Roy of the Theology Department on Tuesday, November 7th, at 5:15 pm in the Alumni Hall Chapel. The Mass is sponsored by the Orestes Brownson Council, People of Devotion, the Jacques Maritain Center, and the Department of Theology.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

William Clark talks about Petrodollar Warfare

William Clark talks about Petrodollar Warfare

Link to the video also features a couple of other peak oil videos, including one with Richard Heinberg.

More on Scott Hahn and Opus Dei

On the topic of the universal call to holiness...

I blogged last week that Scott Hahn's book on his spiritual journey in Opus Dei was now available. Still not much discussion of the book in the Catholic blogosphere; perhaps not many so many people are interested in Opus Dei.

National Catholic Register article

My post on some of the rhetoric and claims made by Opus Dei supporters. The article at the Opus Dei website gives this summation:

In the 155-page book, he provides lively, accessible explanations of key aspects of Opus Dei, such as:

- “divine filiation,” the idea that we are sons and daughters of God, the foundation of Opus Dei’s spirituality

- work as a way of imitating Jesus and a sharing in God’s creation and the redemption of the world

- Opus Dei as a “personal prelature” and its role in the Catholic Church

- the important role of genuine friendship in spreading Christ’s message

1, 2, 4 are not unique to Opus Dei spirituality; they will be found in any true Christian spirituality. (Though our union with God may be expressed with different terms: theosis, filiation, friendship, etc.) What Opus Dei has done is to bring this message to the laity, where bishops have failed to do so. Praiseworthy work indeed, but let us keep in mind "there is nothing new under the sun." Claims about the role of St. Josemaria and of Opus Dei has played in the Church should be tempered; after some time has passed than can an "objective" historian try to give an evaluation.

Passionately Loving the Word: The Use of Sacred Scripture in the Writings of Saint Josemaria By Scott Hahn

Midwest Theological Forum

Happy Feast of All Saints!

CE; Litany of the Saints

Universal Call to Holiness, sculpted by George Carr and now at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception:

Unfortunately, a larger photo is not available on the Internet... as far as I can see...

Shrine's final jewel

Community of Saint John

international website; US site
article from Inside the Vatican, "Beloved Disciples"

Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P., founder of the Community of St. John


Rome 2006

On Fr. Philippe
I just found out through the US website that he passed on to Our Lord on August 26! I didn't read anything about this on any of the usual Catholic websites. How odd! Please pray for him!

More here. Zenit news.
a blog entry
Video of the funeral

Mary, Mystery of Mercy
His book Retracing Reality; other publications

From A Portrait of Fr. Philippe:

To our mind, a more attentive study of Father Marie-Dominique Philippe’s thought (of which this book offers the possibility) reveals that his personal reflections are consciously developed with the intention of distinguishing clearly the starting point of the philosopher’s work (i.e. experience) and the starting point of the theologian’s work (i.e. faith) - something which Scholastic Thomism has never done. It also seems that Father Philippe’s thought is characterised by a constant concern to return to the source, both to the source of western philosophy - in order to take up once more and continue the diligent search for truth begun by the ancient Greeks - and to the source of Faith, that is, the Gospels, seeking to develop a mystical theology based upon the writings of St. John.

By Scholastic Thomism perhaps what is meant is neo-Thomism. (Or Thomism of the manuals.) Not sure if this is a fair assessment, but Fr. Philippe certainly is a reliable guide.

Plus, an apostolate of a third-order Dominican group, New Hope Publications

Richard Stith on pro-life arguments

Good for the most part.

Some quibbles:
Why does self-development entail continuity of being?

Actually, when it comes to reasoning to the existence of a human being, or personhood, I think proceeds as follows: there are no external natural agents causing development (as efficient causes or movers), therefore therefore there is continuity of existence, therefore development is an operation of the conceptum itself.

I conclude that pro-choice folks think pro-life claims regarding embryos to be not only wrong but also absurd whenever they think (even unconsciously) that embryos are under construction in the womb.

I don't think pro-choice people even carry their thinking this far--it's mostly a matter of comparison of either structures or of powers, and then making a judgment.

We know with certainty that quickening is an illusion, that the child is developing from the beginning, not being made from the outside, for its form lies within it, in its active potency, in its activated DNA. From the point of view of natural science (and natural theology) delayed animation (quickening) is no longer needed to explain human development, and Occam’s razor should cut it out of our debates.

The activated DNA is not the form of the thing. This is reductionism again, identifying the formal cause with the matter (or a particular part). And, as I've said before, there is no reason why some intermediate form cannot be responsible for development, possessing the vegetative and sensitive parts but no rational part. At least no one has given the argument why this is not possible. Occam's razor should, in fact, would confirm this possibility rather than deny it.

John Robb, Brave New War

book now available

Cultures Dance Together Under ‘Full Moon’

Cultures Dance Together Under ‘Full Moon’

Jeon Ji Hyun vs. Hyori

Either way, Watcher wins out. Ha, he wishes.

This article is rather funny...

Ads Pit Jeon Ji-hyun Against Lee Hyo-lee

Jeon Ji-hyun(left) and Lee Hyo-lee

TV Spot Pitches Korea's Sexiest Against Each Other
Top Korean stars Jeon Ji-hyun and Lee Hyo-lee are pitted against each other in single combat in the new commercials for the Samsung Anycall mobile phones.

Each, as it happens, seems to have occupied the other’s domain. Jeon was given the bad-girl role, a style expected to take off with the release of “The Devil Wears Prada” based on the fashion-industry roman a clef. Never one to be out of step with the fads, the star who has so far relied on angelic innocence, looks determined to acquire some teeth.

Jeon sheds an image appealing to men’s protective instinct and instead turns heads by using her curves. In a survey coinciding with the release of the movie, which asked what cover models respondents would choose if they were the ice-queen editrix played by Meryl Streep, Jeon Ji-hyun came ahead of Lee Hyo-lee with 39 percent. Among male stars, Rain ranked first.

Lee Hyo-lee, a synonym for sexy confidence, has transformed herself into a gentle, mature woman for the spot. She has become the type of person well described by the new expression “good face, good body, good personality.” Lee is seen as a good Samaritan after it was revealed that she assisted a drunk who had fallen on the street: not just a pretty face, but a good heart too. Who would have thought it?

( )

Korean High-Schooler to Grace Giant Tokyo Posters

The Korean actress Ara is set to become a star in Japan, with the Sankei Sports daily already running a full feature on her advertising venture in the land of the rising sun. “Korea’s new star Ara will be covering Tokyo in the form of 53 large billboards,” the daily said. According to the paper, starting from Wednesday, 53 of the 4 m by 3 m signboards will be put up in some 30 locations in the downtown area. Making use of teaser advertising, the signboards show her picture and homepage address, evoking curiosity about who she is. Through the end of this year, two more new PR signboards will follow.

The method is similar to the one used for BoA, who has now grown into a megastar in Japan. Like BoA, Ara is attached to SM Entertainment, which successfully paved BoA’s way to Japan with a shrewd image management.

Ara will not make her debut in Japan until next March. She won the role of Kulan, the lover of Genghis Khan, in a co-production between Mongolia and Japan titled “The Blue Wolf - To the Ends of the Earth and Sea.” In the competition, the odds were as steep as 1:40,000. “I’ve been dreaming of my picture hanging in Tokyo like other Korean Wave stars,” Ara told the paper. “I’m really happy my dream came true this early.” She is described as “Korea’s new queen of commercials.” Although only in her first year of high school, she started her career as a model at the age of 13 and appeared in a TV drama last year.

( )

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I should have finished my thought in the post on Professor Schloesser's talk.

Nothing impresses the weak-minded than a great number of associations--the more associations you can make, the more people you can cite, the greater the number of ideas you can string together to make your point, the better, because if you can make all these connections, surely you must be on to something. What brilliance!

Really, if one wants to see how the Many return to the One, and in the special gratuitous way that Our Lord has made possible through grace, they should pray more and devote their lives to holiness, rather than waste their time doing bad philosophy and thinking really small thoughts (which they take to be great).

There should be no need to ask why I sympathize with those who reacted against the excessive rationalism of the universities and created devotio moderna? What would Thomas a Kempis have said tonight? I'd love to heard his comments.

The talk about the Catholic Intellectual Tradition

drenwas given this afternoon by Stephen Schloesser (S.J. -- could have fooled me, but then again most of the Jesuits at Boston College usually wear civilian clothes) . His website. I don't know if the paper will be made available online, but if it is, I will post the link.

Professor Keenan told a joke/anecdote before the talk; apparently both were up for tenure and he remarked to Prof. Schloesser, "You're brilliant, there's no way you'll get tenure," to which Prof. Schloesser replied, 'Well, so are you."

Well, both got tenure, so should we exercise modus tollens and conclude that neither is brilliant?
(Not that modus tollens might not have its problems, but the point is, academics should be a bit humble, especially after what both of these men said tonight.)

Really, if you think this was a brilliant talk (and it was, according to Professor Keenan, Professor Ali Banuzizi and Professor Ray Madoff), , or willing to give it such a positive evaluation, you should have your license to teach revoked, because obviously while you may be successful in your field of expertise according to the judgment of your peers, wisdom eludes you.

Of course, maybe they were being polite, but if there were, this is just another example of diplomacy trumping truth in an arena where truth should be paramount.

What can I say about Prof. Schloesser's talk without a text for you to read?

1. It was an example of what happens when a historian or a bad theologian does a presentation of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition instead of someone who has been initiated into the path of wisdom, in all its forms.

2. In adhering to his Hegelian inclinations, Professor Schloesser attempted to show how the Catholic Intellectual Tradition made it possible for the Many to be united to the One, for sacramentum et res. A typical academic paper, citing the "in" authorities in order to make connections that don't really exist, to illustrate points badly understood, when correctly understood it could serve to give a reasonable portrayal the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. But, he has another axe to grind.

3. Much of what he wrote in order to show opposition and contradiction was just sleight of hand--he was playing the equivocation game, though I doubt many caught on, given the dimness of the brains in that room.

4. Lots of talk about sacramentalism--sacrament not taken in its strict technical sense, but according to an earlier sense. No problem, but is talk about sacramentalism just a cover for something else? (Say, Process Theology?) Plus, he did cite Annie Dillard, who converted to Catholicism, but what sort of Catholicism? (The Ecotheology of Annie Dillard.) Do I want to spend the time to find out?

If I say God becomes manifest in me, what do I mean by this?

Some egregious errors used in support of his theses:
The first clue that something was up? His attempt to show that the Magisterium's claim to teach the truth and its authority had been discredited. For example? What had been said in the response by the Holy Office on the question of slavery, which was along the lines of: "slavery is not intrinsically wrong." In contrast, Abraham Lincoln, enlightened individual that he was and not a practicing Christian (according to Professor Schloesser) shows us what any decent person knows about slavery. So what does the Holy Office understand by slavery? Has Professor Schloesser taken the first step in any inquiry or comparison by looking at definitions? Apparently not--maybe a look at the old Catholic Encyclopedia would have revealed that he was barking up the wrong tree. But even if he learned this, would he have proceeded with the critique anyways? It's the same sort of line of attack dissenters use--supposed contradictions within the Magsterium show that the Magisterium has no monopoly on truth, and that it should be corrected by decent theologians who really have a grasp on things.

btw, slavery as it is understood by the Holy Office is akin to having a title to the labor of another; it is not the same as chattel slavery (which was condemend) or other unjust forms of servitude. So really, Professor Schloesser, do the homework or be honest about the sort of Christianity you want.

Does he take Aristotle's Children to be an authoritative source and good intellectual history? If he does, that should say something about his (lack of) expertise. After all, who is to say what would have happened if the Muslims did not invade Christian Palestine, Christian Syria, Christian North Africa. Even if the heresies of Nestorianism and Monophysitism did lead to the tragic divisions within Christendom, would Aristotle have been lost forever without the Muslims? Or would they have made their way to the Latin West through the Byzantines?

And please, do not classify Aristotle as an empiricist, as if his metaphysics were a remnant of his "Platonism." While he may have believed that science of the changing was possible (though not changing as changing), he did not reject the existence of the spiritual. In fact, the knowledge of the spiritual is precisely First Philosophy and [speculative] Wisdom, given the nobility of its object. While there was a place for rational or scientific theory within Catholicism after the middle ages, can the same be said of Judaism or Islam? Just because certain agents may have a role to play in preserving what is good, through the Providence of God, that does not mean that the agents themselves are blameless and exemplars, or that their societies or cultures are good and perfect, or that their religions are equally true. How many Muslims now care about Averroes or Avicenna? And without the Christian or Jewish intelligentsia in the conquered lands, would the Muslims have any learning attributed to them?

Apparently we can never see God the Father. Has he never heard of the Beatific Vision? Or is he turning into a Greek Orthodox, with a cerain interpretation of certain Greek Fathers? He mentioned the Cloud of Unknowing, without addressing the fact that much of devotio moderna was a reaction against the hyper-rationalism of the universities (ending in nominalism and a host of other errors).

He contrasts the optimism of the scholastics (who believed in the power of reason) with the Fourth Lateran Council, which stifled intellectual inquiry by saying that the use of analogy shows that we do not now God more than we know him. Guess what? This is also the position of Aquinas, and any theologian worth his salt. There is no opposition between academia and authority. Small wonder that Prof. Keenan picked Prof. Schloesser to give the talk. They're both subversive of Church authority and probably dissenters as well.

For someone who is friends with James Keenan it is surprising that he can talk about the dominance of nominalism and voluntarism in the 14th century, when recent research on the situation at the universities show that there was greater diversity than previously thought. After all, this was the point of Martin Stone's talk last week, and Prof. Keenan was present for that. But we don't wish to discredit our friends, do we? Not when they are our allies in something bigger. So what if his argument is built on inaccuracies and misunderstandings and falsehoods--the important thing is to discard the schackles of Church authority and the imperiousness of a Tradition that takes itself to be a bearer of truth.

The Spiritual Exercises are not against the senses and the sensible world--when St. Ignatius of Loyola talks about being wary of the devil's deceptions, he is not talk about the world, the senses, or appearances--he is talking about what goes on in the soul, and the proper discernment of spirits, so that we are not lead by the master of deceit but by the Holy Spirit. Really, can a Jesuit be even more clueless about his own religious patrimony? I believe it was Prof. Madoff? or was it Prof. Banuzizi? The tradition is not about having answers but asking ?s. Why? Are you all historicists? Even if a proposition taken by itself does not capture the whole truth, does that mean that it does not capture any truth? And are you going to claim that both a proposition and its contradiction are true and false? And if you're going to spout nonsense like that, why shouldn't you be beaten for being a fool?

The Jesuits were suppressed not because of their opposition to Jansenism, but because freemasons and other "enlightened" individuals were working their way into the courts of Europe, to destroy the alliance between altar and throne (what was left of it, at any rate) and to destroy the influence of the Church.

God owes us nothing does not entail that human nature is therefore deprived. Catholics also believe that God owes us nothing; then again perhaps Professor Schloesser, like many of the so-called Catholics at BC, is a closet (or uncloseted) Pelagian.

In line with his Hegelianism, and the thesis-antithesis-synthesis paradigm, he used a really bizarre Trinitarian theology and Christology to show the divide between God and Creation and how it is to be bridged. God the Father is imminanet, while the Son is Humanity, representing what is sensible, or God's emanence, God's presence in creation, the Incarnate--the Spirit is the dancing around (perichoresis) of the two, yes, but what sort of spirit is he talking about? This statement about the Person of the Holy Spirit could be taken from orthodox Catholic theology, but in a different context it could be a statement of Hegelian philosophy/process theology. So what are your true colors, Prof. Schloesser?

Certain Orthodox theologians have their preferred way of talking about the presence of God in all things, and they think this is incompatible with Latin theology. Our Latin tradition talks about the omnipresence of God in all things, but this does not implies that we are good separate from God, or that we are loved because we are somehow loveable prior to God's creative act. Besides, where is the distinction between grace and nature? Karl Rahner was brought up tonight, but I wonder if Prof. Schloesser is a follower of Rahner, or if he hasn't moved beyond Rahner. Like I said, we seem to be moving in the direction of a "nice" Christianity, in which we just need to be as good as we can be, and God will let us into heaven, because He understands how hard it is to be perfect, and He doesn't really expect that we will reach this goal. It's nothing more than an effete version of Pelagianism.

What else?
At least Prof. Schloesser cited Paul Claudel. Plus Gerard Manley Hopkins--but then again what Jesuit doesn't like to use Hopkins to support almost anything? (Especially some version of secularized Jesuit humanism that pays lip service to God?) Or perhaps there are those who have another reason to use Hopkins, because they think they can appropriate him as a "gay saint."

His talk did pique my interest in Denise Levertov, a poet who converted to Catholicism late in life. Somehow she is the embodiment of intellectual inquiry which is at the heart of the Catholic intellectual tradition, but...

Do not praise the latecomer, for the latecomer's path may not be the best one, and that the latecomer is able to come to God at all is because of His Mercy and His Perseverance...

Sensuous Architecture might be a good book to check out... it talks about the architecture in Jesuit Churches (the Baroque style)...

What impresses Prof. Banuzizi the most about the Catholic intellectual tradition, or Catholicism, is its tolerance and concern for social justice. Apparently he's been around Jesuists, or at BC, for much too long. The inclusiveness, openness to other sources and traditions? Well, I didn't write what he wrote down, and my memory is hazy--perhaps the Lady Downstairs can correct and add.

Not to say that Christianity is closed off from truth--not at all, where truth is to be found, the Church embraces it. But this does not mean that the Church does not have the standard by which it judges what is true and what is not. After all, Wisdom has revealed itself, and it is Christ.

Professor Madoff shared her concern that BC might not be so welcoming to students of other religions if it were to emphasize the Catholic intellectual tradition so much that the education to be found at BC is directed primarily at Catholics. Oh no! How terrible! Imagine that, a Catholic university supplying an education to Catholics, one that they cannot find at a secular university.

Given the amount of praise being heaped upon Prof. Hollenbach, I don't think it is wrong to be a bit suspicious of his work (even if I should take a look at his The Common Good and Christian Ethics.)

Would I want to teach in an environment at a supposed "Catholic" school with smug and self-congratulatory academics who have no care for the treasury of wisdom to be found in the Catholic intellectual tradition? Would it be worth giving 30 years of my life in futile fights, when the majority of faculty don't care for the tradition and the teachings of the Church, and would be more than happy to tear it down by showing how "Reason" has proven so much of it to be wrong? (See the examples of Professor Schloesser's talk.)

Why don't I just take some shears and just cut my testicles off now and save you the trouble? Talk about an emasculating environment--better to speak out against the b*stards and get thrown out of their nice little social club, or never be invited in, than to sit there and be beaten down by their pettiness, prissiness, and pride. Ah, the folly that passes itself off as wisdom.

They're fortunate that this is the age of the New Law rather than the Old. Truly, if God sent his prophets who could stand long against Him?

Father Cantalamessa on Holiness

Father Cantalamessa on Holiness

Pontifical Household Preacher on All Saints' Day

ROME, OCT. 31, 2006 ( Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from the feast of All Saints.

* * *

Holiness Is Not a Luxury ...
Revelation 7:2-4,9-14; John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a

The saints the liturgy celebrates on this solemnity are not only those canonized by the Church and mentioned in our calendars. They are all those who are saved and form the heavenly Jerusalem. Speaking of the saints, St. Bernard said: "Let us not be slow in imitating those we are happy to celebrate." It is, therefore, the ideal occasion to reflect on the "universal call of all Christians to holiness."

The first thing to do in speaking about holiness is to free the word from the fear it inspires, due to some mistaken representations that we make of it. Holiness can entail extraordinary phenomena, but it is not identified with them. If all are called to holiness it is because, properly understood, it is within everyone's reach, it is part of the normality of the Christian life.

God is the "only Holy One" and "the source of all holiness." When one attempts to see how man enters into the sphere of God's holiness and what it means to be holy, the ritualistic idea in the Old Testament immediately prevails in one's mind.

The means of God's holiness are objects, places, rites and prescriptions. Heard, it is true, especially in the prophets and the Psalms, are different voices, exquisitely moral, but voices that remain isolated. In Jesus' time, the idea still prevailed among the Pharisees that holiness and justice consist in ritual purity and scrupulous observance of the law.

Looking at the New Testament, we see profound changes. Holiness does not reside in the hands, but in the heart; it is not decided outside but within man, and it is summarized in charity.

The mediators of God's holiness are no longer places (the Temple of Jerusalem or the Mountain of the Beatitudes), rites, objects or laws, but a person, Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ is the very holiness of God that comes to us in person, not in a distant reverberation of his. He is "the Holy One of God" (John 6:69).

We come into contact with Christ's holiness in two ways, and it is communicated to us: by appropriation and by imitation. Holiness is above all a gift, grace. Given that we belong to Christ more than to ourselves, having been "purchased at great price," it follows from this, inversely, that the holiness of Christ belongs to us more than our own holiness. It is what gives flight to the spiritual life.

Paul teaches how this "audacious blow" is given when he states solemnly that he does not want to be found with a righteousness of his own, or holiness based on observance of the law, but only with that which is through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:5-10). Christ, he says, has made himself "our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). He is "for us": therefore, for all intents and purposes, we can claim his holiness as our own.

Along with this fundamental means of the faith and the sacraments, imitation must also have a place, that is, personal effort and good works. Not as a separate and different means, but as the only appropriate means to manifest the faith, translating it into act.

When Paul writes: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification," it is clear that he understands precisely this holiness which is the fruit of personal commitment. He adds, in fact, as though to explain in what the sanctification he is talking about consists: "that you abstain from immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor" (1 Thessalonians 4:3-9).

"There is but one sadness in the world, and it is not to be saints," said Leon Bloy, and Mother Teresa was right when a journalist asked her point-blank how she felt being acclaimed as being holy around the world, and she answered: "Holiness is not a luxury; it is a necessity."

Something you won't see at BC

Vigiling in DC

Back in the day, when we were at Christendom, some students (under the leadership of Chris Smith) would go down to the nearby cemetary to pray and sing the litany of saints. With candles, too! I don't know if anyone has adopted this practice, or if the college and its chaplains have something more official. Makes me wonder if the SGA guys still do compline in the chapel...

Mr. Hefner's Fertility Clinic

Ever wonder what happened to Cindy Margolis, the former "most downloaded woman" and "Queen of the Internet"? Some news, over at Mere Comments.

Aging gracefully does not = being able to excite the lust of men despite passing a certain age. Unfortunately, Hollywood celebs and the media usually affirm this message rather than work against it.

Photos: Dance

Dancers perform a traditional Italian dance during an United Nations backed event aimed at using dance to promote greater familiarity and friendship between people, near Athens on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)

Dancers perform a traditional dance during a religious festival Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006 in Taipei, Taiwan. The festival celebrates the Chinese god of the underworld Cheng Huang. (AP Photo)

Samantha Melesenka, 24, right, dances a Mambo with David Courson, 48, at the 36th Grand National Dance Championships in Miami Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 26, 2006. David Courson of Boca Raton decided to ballroom dance his way to a healthier back, his buddies teased him about finding a real sport like basketball, tennis, or anything with a ball. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Jessica Senekal, right, dances with Bruce Akioka at the 36th Grand National Dance Championships in Miami Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 26, 2006. Dancers ranged in ability from newcomers, with fewer than 50 hours of instruction, to professional levels. The amateurs can earn points in the hopes of representing their regions at the National Dance Council of America's annual championship, while the professional instructors compete for cash prizes. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Muslim men and women dance to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, marking the end of the month-long Ramadan fast outside the Niujie Mosque the largest in Beijing. Millions of Muslims across the world were celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, with calls for tolerance amid a surge of violence in Iraq and heightened security in Asia.(AFP/Peter Parks)

Dance China NY : Dancers from the Dance China NY perform during a dress rehearsal at the New York City Center, for the show " One World: A spectacular Global Celebration" Career Transition For Dancers 21st Anniversary Jubilee. (AFP/Timothy A. Clary)

Dance China NY

Belly dance! : A Taiwanese dancer performs during a belly dance contest at Taipei. (AFP/Patrick Lin)
AFP - Oct 22 4:53 PM

In this photo provided by Tourism Board of Nicaragua, members of the Ballet Folklorico Nicaragense perform the Dance and Music of the Colonial Comedy El Gegense as part of a Nicaraguan Cultural Festival at the Inter-American Development Bank Theatre, Friday, Oct. 20, 2006, in Washington. (AP Photo/Tourism Board of Nicaragua, Caleb Jones)

Ukrainian girls wearing folk costumes dance during the opening ceremony of the Salo (pork fat) Festival in Lutsk, western Ukraine, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2006. Pork fat along with black bread, raw garlic and vodka is a traditional Ukrainian dish. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Photos: CZJ

Catherine Zeta-Jones poses for pictures on the red carpet at the 2006 Glamour Women of the Year awards New York, Monday, Oct. 30, 2006. Zeta-Jones was among the presenters at the 17th annual awards presentation that honors extraordinary and inspirational women. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Catherine Zeta-Jones arrives at the Glamour Magazine 2006 Women of the Year Awards in New York on Monday, Oct. 30, 2006.(Fashion Wire Daily/Grant Lamos IV)

Catherine Zeta-Jones speaks before presenting an award at the 2006 Glamour Women of the Year awards in New York, Monday, Oct. 30, 2006. The 17th annual awards presentation honors extraordinary and inspirational women. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Catherine Zeta-Jones does a dance before presenting an award at the 2006 Glamour Women of the Year awards in New York, Monday, Oct. 30, 2006. The 17th annual awards presentation honors extraordinary and inspirational women. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Photos: Patriarch Bartholomew

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,center bottom line, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians poses with monks for a photo during his visit at the 1,000-year-old Esphigmenou monastery to a building in Karyes, mount Athos, Greece, on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006. Bartholomew , who began a three-day visit to Mount Athos on Saturday, called on the rebel monks to end their 'illegal occupation' of a building in Karyes _ the mediaeval monastic community's administrative center. (AP Photo/Nilolas Giakoumidis)

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,center, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians blesses the crowd with monks at the 1,000-year-old Esphigmenou monastery to a building in Karyes, mount Athos, Greece, on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006. (AP Photo/Nilolas Giakoumidis)

Esphigmenou Monastery
Holy Esphigmenou Monastery

IGN: Mel Gibson interview


Dreaming about politics

Well... this morning I had a dream with PJB, or someone like Mr. Buchanan, but not quite--he tended to shift appearance from time to time, and wasn't a stable image. I asked him if he was going to find anyone to run in 2008, and if the chances of winning were any good... there was more conversation that seemed substantial, but it really wasn't...

The Natural Step for Eco-Villages

The Natural Step for Eco-Villages

The Natural Step has four 'system conditions' which, when achieved, will create sustainable conditions. In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing

1. concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust;

2. concentrations of substances produced by society;

3. degradation by physical means

4. and, in that society human needs are met.

In other words, we should minimize harm to the earth and human health; we should use alternatives to fossil fuels, toxic metals, and other persistent toxic substances. We should achieve zero waste (or darn near). And we should protect and restore nature and the ecosystem services it provides. But most importantly, we should meet basic human needs for food, shelter, education and healthcare. I would add that basic human needs include a social environment free of social isolation bred of racism and classism, an environment that nurtures and respects everyone.

Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert:
Natural Step: the Science of Sustainability
Educating a Nation: A Natural Step (alternative)
Cycle of Nature (alternative)

wiki for Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert
His book, The Natural Step Story: Seeding a Quiet Revolution
some video clips

The Natural Step:
The Natural Step (UK, New Zealand)
More on the Natural Step

Sarah James and Torbjorn Lahti, The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices

From Linear to Cyclical Economy (part 2)
Peter Montague, The Meaning of Sustainability

Some articles at Energy Bulletin on Sweden:
Swedish government embraces peak oil and looks towards biofuels
Peak oil & Sweden: what a small country can do
Why the Swedish oil commission fails to deliver route to oil independence

Yes Magazine
Summer 2006 issue: 5,000 Years of Empire: Ready for a Change?

Kick the Oil Habit blog

Magister, The Church and Islam

The Church and Islam: A Sprig of Dialogue Has Sprouted in Regensburg

Monday, October 30, 2006

Another wacky dream

And Sarge's name came up in the dream... ha!

The unit was being deployed somewhere and was getting a briefing in some secret place (hidden in a restaurant, I think). Some FBI agents were in the dream too, but I think they were doing escort duty.

I'm not sure where they were inserted and what the mission was supposed to be, but they were in need of a sniper.

Christendom girls say: "CAG no good!"

combat applications group

Two Pro-SSM Judges on California Ballot

Two Pro-Gay CA. Judges On Calif. Ballot
by James Hartline
October 24, 2006 12:00 PM EST
On Nov. 7, 2006, California voters will have another opportunity to make their position on the definition of marriage very clear. Two liberal California State Supreme Court Justices are up for reelection and whether or not the voters return these two women to the state's highest court will clearly determine the fate of marriage in California.


Today I received my absentee ballot; since I'm registered back in California, this is an opporunity to complain about that Leviathan known by others as the Golden State.

I'm tempted to vote the American Independent ticket straight through, even though they will not gain any offices. (The American Independent Party is affiliated with the Constitution Party.)

People have been commenting how Mr. Schwarzenegger has been moving towards the left for a while, though apparently only recently has this helped him in the pre-election polling.

Governor Schwarzenegger's blog
His re-election site.

Since I can't vote for either Mr. Schwarzenegger or Mr. Angelides, I will probably cast my ballot for Edward C. Noonan. Mr. Noonan's energy policy is a mess, but he seems to be a straight-shooter. Unfortunately, no one is really running on a relocalization platform, nor does anyone acknowledge the question of Peak Oil, as far as I can tell.

(Does anyone need to know anything more about the Peace and Freedom candidates after looking at the party's website? As for the Libertarian Party, their stances on the purpose of law and social questions make them unpalatable.)

As for the Green Party, Peter Camejo supports the living wage and labor rights, but what is he advocating with respect to legislation that would
He is on the wrong side of the abortion question, and he is opposed to the "anti-immigration movement" which he deems to be racist. Enough said. Apparently as a Green he is nonetheless ignorant of the impact of unrestricted immigration on ecosystems (as it stands, the major population centers of California are probably unsustainable). He is showing the worst sort of ethnic bias possible, one that completely disregards community and the common good.

As for lieutenant governor, it's probably Tom McClintock. If he is elected, perhaps this will give him an opportunity to run for governor and win.
He is (supposedly) pro-life, and even if he is a strong support of the oligarchy (his policy positions are difficult to find on his website), he's still probably a better choice than the Democratic candidate, John Garamendi, and when the race is close and one major contendor does seem better than the other, it doesn't seem right to cast a vote for someone who can't win, even if he better reflect's one's personal stances.
Garamendi is a supporter of [embryonic] stem cell research, McClintock isn't.

Garamendi writes:
The health care system and the current health insurance system is inefficient and in many ways ineffective. We spend 15.6% of our total GDP on health care yet we are sicker and do not live as long as our counterparts in Europe and Asia who spend less that 10% of their GDP on health care. As Lt. Governor, I will work
toward every Californian having universal access to affordable health care. Our health care system should value people before profit.

He probably is correct that the health care system and the health insurance system are flawed. But then he panders to the mob with the next assertion. If we are sicker and do not live as long, how much of that is our own fault, and how much of that is due solely to chance? When will Americans take responsibility for their unhealthy lifestyles and diets?

Mr. McClintock's website as state senator.

Apparently Jerry Brown has not had enough of California politics, and is running for Attorney General. What can one say about hubris? This is a man who thinks he's Catholic, and yet contradicts Catholic teaching.

Of course, I'm voting for candidates based on issues, not on personal knowledge of their character, which is more important, but that sort of information is not available for most voters, and is a flaw of the system, which cannot be remedied by the press, not even the Free Press.

I don't know how many of the candidates are actually opposed to Proposition 90, drawn up in response to SCOTUS' Kelo decision. I would be surprised if there were any who did oppose Proposition 90, though there is a website opposing it. Now how is one supposed to evaluate the counter-arguments if one doesn't have access to the complete text of the proposition and all relevant legislation? It makes one wonder if voters are being manipulated by those who are working behind the scenes, both for and against a proposition. I found the complete text online, but really, what voter has the time or the expertise to read through this?

If someone brings up the impact of legislation on market value, perhaps we should be looking at first principles instead--what factors should determine value, and is the current system by which value is determined a just one?

If there is any state that will have to turn to a dictatorship in order to survive in the future, it's California.

'Sperm-stopping' male pill hope

Via NOR.

Scientists are developing a male contraceptive drug which stops the development process of sperm.

Tests on rats show blocking connections to cells which "nurture" developing sperm makes the animals infertile.

The US and Italian researchers say they used relatively low doses of the molecule and found no obvious side effects, and the effect was reversible.

But they told Nature Medicine that work was now needed to see if their approach is equally effective and safe in men.

High dosage

When sperm are being made in the body in a process called spermatogenesis they sit next to other cells, called Sertoli cells, which nurse and help them grow.

If the connection between these two cell types is broken, infertility can result in men.

In the study authors used a recently developed molecule called Adjudin to dislodge the developing sperm from the Sertoli cells.

However Adjudin is also known to be toxic at high doses.

To get round this, the researchers linked it chemically to a hormone, called FSH, which acts in the testicles where sperm are made.

The FSH, which the researchers made inactive so it would merely act as a carrier and not cause any effect itself, delivered Adjudin to where it was needed, allowing much lower doses to be given.

This made the developing sperm cells "fall off" too early, before they were properly mature, resulting in complete but temporary loss of fertility in the rats.

More research is needed to assess if the same approach could work in humans.

But the researchers, led by Dr Dolores Mruk, from the Center For Biomedical Research in New York, said: "We anticipate that this compound could become a male contraceptive for human use."

'Promising' research

Dr Richard Anderson, from the University of Edinburgh, who has been investigating hormonal male contraceptives in the UK, said: "This is very promising.

"A non-hormonal approach to male contraception using a drug which specifically targets a process in spermatogenesis has long been a very attractive option, as it leaves hormone production by the testis intact."

He said it appeared the drug effects could be fully reversible, although only a single dose was given in the study.

"Clearly there are enormous amounts of work needed to translate this to humans.

"Adjudin may be ineffective in men, as the biochemistry of the cell junctions it targets may be different, and the precise molecular basis of its mechanism of action is unknown.

"However, perhaps the most important aspect of this study is the demonstration that using FSH targeting, drugs that are otherwise too toxic, can be delivered in safe yet effective doses."

Politics: imperial sunset

Energy Bulletin

Published on 26 Oct 2006 by The Archdruid Report / Energy Bulletin. Archived on 26 Oct 2006.
Politics: imperial sunset

by John Michael Greer

The coming of peak oil is driven by geological factors, not political ones, but the cascade of consequences that will follow the peaking and decline of world petroleum production can’t be understood outside the context of politics, on global, local, and personal scales.

As a religious leader who believes devoutly in the separation of church and state, it’s been my practice to keep politics out of these commentaries, in the probably vain hope that other clergypersons will notice one of these days that the barrier between religion and politics is there as much to protect them from politicians as it is to keep them from abusing their own positions.

Still, it’s impossible to make sense of peak oil outside of its political context, and so a few words on the subject can’t be avoided here. This is especially true on the global level, the subject of this week’s Archdruid Report, where the preeminent political fact of the age of peak oil is the impending decline – and, at least potentially, the catastrophic collapse – of America’s world empire.

Empires are unfashionable these days, which is why those who support the American empire generally start by claiming that it doesn’t exist, while those who oppose it seem to think that the simple fact of its existence makes it automatically worse than any alternative. I have a hard time finding any worth in either of these views. When the United States maintains military garrisons in more than a hundred nations, supporting a state of affairs that allows the 5% of humanity who are American citizens to monopolize something like a third of the world’s natural resources and industrial production, it’s difficult to discuss the international situation honestly without words like “empire” creeping in, and it requires a breathtaking suspension of disbelief to redefine American foreign policy as the disinterested pursuit of worldwide democracy for its own sake.

Still, portraying American empire as the worst of all possible worlds, a popular sport among intellectuals on the left these days, requires just as much of a leap of faith. If Nazi Germany, say, or the Soviet Union had come out on top in the scramble for global power that followed the decline of the British Empire, the results would certainly have been a good deal worse, and those who currently exercise their freedom to criticize the present empire would face gulags or gas chambers. The lack of any empire at all may very well be a desirable state of affairs, of course, but until our species evolves efficient ways to checkmate the ambitions of one nation to exploit another, that state of affairs is unlikely to obtain this side of Neverland.

The facts of the matter are that ever since transport technology evolved far enough to permit one nation to have a significant impact on another, there have been empires; since the rise of effective maritime transport in the 15th century, those empires have had global reach; and since 1945, when it finished off two of its rivals and successfully contained the third, the United States has maintained a global empire. That empire was as much the result of opportunism, accident and necessity as of any deliberate plan, but it exists, and if it did not exist, some other nation would fill a similar role. So, like it or not, America rules the dominant world empire today – and that will likely become a source of tremendous misfortune for Americans in decades to come.

Partly this comes from the nature of imperial systems, because the pursuit of empire is as self-destructive an addiction as anything you’ll find on the mean streets of today’s inner cities. The systematic economic imbalances imposed on client states by empires, while hugely profitable for the empire’s political class, wreck the economy of the imperial state by flooding its markets with cheap imported goods and its financial system with tribute. Those outside the political class become what A.J. Toynbee, in his A Study of History, calls an internal proletariat, alienated from an imperial system that yields them few benefits and many burdens, while the external proletariat – the people of the client states, whose labor supports the imperial economy but who gain little or nothing in return – respond to their exploitation with a rising spiral of violence that moves from crime through terrorism to open warfare.

To counter the twin threats of internal dissidence and external insurgency, the imperial state must divert ever larger fractions of its resources to its military and security forces. Economic decline, popular disaffection, and growing pressures on the borders hollow out the imperial state into a brittle shell of soldiers, spies, and bureaucrats surrounding a society in freefall. When the shell finally cracks – as it always does, sooner or later – nothing is left inside to resist change, and the result is implosion.

It’s possible to halt this process, but only by deliberately stepping back from empire. Britain’s response to its own imperial sunset is instructive; instead of clinging to its empire and being dragged down by it, Britain allied with the rising power of the United States, allowed its colonial holdings to slip away, and managed to keep its economic and political system more or less intact. Compare that to Spain, which had the largest empire on Earth in the 16th and 17th centuries. By the 19th century it was one of the poorest countries in Europe, two centuries behind the times economically, racked by civil wars and foreign invasions, and completely incapable of influencing the European politics of the age. The main factor in this precipitous decline was the long-term impact of empire. It’s no accident that Spain’s national recovery only really began after its last overseas colonies were seized by the United States in the Spanish-American war.

In this light, the last quarter century of American policy has been suicidally counterproductive in its attempt to maintain the glory days of empire. That empire rested on three foundations – the immense resource base of the American land, especially its once-huge oil reserves; the vast industrial capacity of what was once America’s manufacturing hinterland and now, tellingly, is known as the Rust Belt; and a canny foreign policy, codified in the early 19th century under the Monroe Doctrine, that distanced itself from Old World disputes and focused on maintaining exclusive economic and military influence over Latin America. With these foundations solidly in place, America could intervene decisively in European affairs in 1917 and 1942, and launch an imperial expansion after 1945 that gave it effective dominance over most of the world.

By 1980, though, the economic impacts of empire had already gutted the American industrial economy – a process that has only accelerated since then – and the new and decisive factor of oil depletion added substantially to the pressures toward decline. A sane national policy in this context might have withdrawn from imperial commitments, shifted the burdens of empire onto a resurgent western Europe, pursued military and economic alliances with rising powers such as China and Brazil, and used the economic and social turmoil set in motion by the energy crises of the 1970s to downshift to less affluent and energy-intensive lifestyles, reinvigorate the nation’s industrial and agricultural economy, and renew the frayed social covenants that united the political class with other sectors of the population in a recognition of common goals.

The realities of American politics, however, kept such a plan out of reach. In a society where competing elite groups buy political power by handing out economic largesse to sectors of the electorate – which is what “liberal democracy” amounts to in practice – the possibility of a retreat from empire was held hostage by a classic prisoner’s dilemma: any elite group willing to put its own short-term advantage ahead of national survival could take and hold power, as Reagan’s Republicans did in 1980, by reaffirming the imperial project and restoring access to the rewards of the tribute economy. For that reason, especially since 2000, the American political class – very much including its “liberal” as well as its “conservative” factions – has backed the survival of America’s global empire by all available means.

This would be disastrous even without the factor of peak oil. No empire, even in its prime, can afford policies that estrange its allies, increase its overseas commitments, make its enemies forget their mutual quarrels and form alliances with one another, and destabilize the world political order, all at the same time. American foreign policy in recent years has accomplished every one of these things, at a time when America’s effective ability to deal with the consequences is steadily declining as its resource base dwindles and the last of its industrial economy fizzles out. To call this a recipe for disaster is to understate the case considerably.

Peak oil, though, is the wild card in the deck, and at this point in the game it’s a card that can only be played to America’s detriment. To an extent few people realize, every aspect of American empire – from the trade networks that extract wealth from America’s client states to the military arsenal that projects its power worldwide – depends on cheap abundant petroleum. As the first nation to systematically exploit its petroleum reserves on a large scale, the United States floated to victory in two world wars on a sea of oil, and learned the lesson that the way to win wars was to use more energy than the other side. That was possible in the first half of the 20th century, when America was the world’s largest oil producer and exporter. It became problematic in the 1970s, when domestic oil production peaked and began to decline, while consumption failed to decline in step and made America dependent on imports. The arrival of worldwide peak oil completes the process by making America’s energy-intensive model of empire utterly unsustainable.

How that process will play out is anyone’s guess at this point. What worries me most, though, is the possibility that it could have a very substantial military dimension. The US military’s total dependence on energy-intensive high technology could too easily become a double-edged sword if the resources needed to sustain the technology run short or become suddenly unavailable, and its investment – economic as well as intellectual – in a previously successful model of warfare could turn into a fatal distraction if new conditions make that model an anachronism.

Any student of history knows that people in each age tend to overestimate the solidity of the familiar, and are commonly taken by surprise when the foundations of an established order melt out from beneath them. The possibility that the global political scene could change out of all recognition in the aftermath of military catastrophe is hard to dismiss, and if that happens those of us who live in today’s United States could be facing a very rough road indeed.

Energy Descent Pathways

Energy Bulletin/Transition Culture
Available Now From Transition Culture - Energy Descent Pathways

by Rob Hopkins

I am delighted to be able to finally make available copies of the dissertation I have been working on over the last 7 months, which is called Energy Descent Pathways: Evaluating potential responses to Peak Oil. It is, I think, quite a ground-breaking piece of work, looking at peak oil but also beyond it, which Richard Heinberg has described it as “an extremely valuable resource for community leaders and other policy makers, all of whom must make the energy transition their first priority in the years ahead”.

It explores the possible synthesis of ideas and approaches that might underpin community-led responses to peak oil. It looks at possible links between addiction and our relationship to oil, as well as evaluating the range of scenarios put forward as to what might happen beyond the peak. I have printed some (rather handsome it must be said) hard copies, and it is also available as a pdf. file. You can read more about how you can get hold of a copy, as well as some of the kind things people have said about it here.

Here is a more detailed description of it and what it contains…

For the past year, Rob Hopkins, co-ordinator and editor of the Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan, permaculture activist and producer of, has been looking deeper into the concept of Energy Descent Planning, in preparation of the Transition Town Totnes initiative which has recently begun. As part of an MSc at Plymouth University , he evaluated the literature on peak oil, the concept of energy descent, relocalisation and the spectrum of thinking as to what might come after the peak in world oil production. The resultant document, produced as his dissertation, is an invaluable addition to the Peak Oil literature and a groundbreaking piece of work which draws together many threads in the peak oil debate, as well as exploring exciting new ground.

Of particular interest are;
  • the first exploration in print about how insights from the field of addictions such as the Stage of Change model and Motivational Interviewing could inform energy descent initiatives,
  • a new model which combines the many post peak scenarios found in the literature to offer new insights into the thinking underlying them
  • a concise review of the peak oil literature and its main debates
  • a collection of the principles that could underpin a community energy descent process
  • extensive references

Some Reviews

“…these proposals are formulated in sound, well-considered, pragmatic terms, wreathed in good common sense. Far from it being a doomsday message, we are left with a sense of real hope that a more benign age may follow the oil-based excesses of the present world.

“This report deserves to be studied by governments at local and national levels, and is indeed being reviewed by the European Commission, but more important than that it needs to be standard reading in school curricula and find a place on everyone’s bookshelf. It truly is a guide to the future - and a good future at that.. It is most encouraging to learn that certain cities are already adopting its recommendations”.

C.J.Campbell (Founder of ASPO - The Association for the Study of Peak Oil)

“Rob’s vision of peak oil and its effects are stark but his conclusions indicate the possibility of a significant shift in our collective worldviews, in keeping with Joanna Macy’s Great Turning towards a life-affirming ecological culture. He says, “if humanity is able to mobilize and respond with creativity and imagination, [peak oil] may yet turn out to have been the trigger for a future of abundance with a higher quality of life”.

“This is a first class, well-sourced academic document. It you want to explore these issues it is highly recommended. Personally, I’m looking forward to Rob’s PhD research that will further formulate the principles behind conscious community engagement in energy descent planning and research emerging projects that are already doing just that all over the world. These have been in no small part inspired by Rob himself”.

Maddy Harland – editor, Permaculture Magazine.

“Energy Descent Pathways: evaluating potential responses to Peak Oil is a A4 50+page publication that achieves two tasks. Firstly it provides a brief overview of peak oil and likely energy descent future scenarios of great value for policy makers, community activists, and academics to get up to speed on this issue. This is background to an exploration of the methods for empowering rapid and effective community level adaptive change. It a novel mix of academic literature review, (to avoid reinventing the wheel) and a hands on agenda for making it happen. A surprising combination in an academic work, but not from Rob Hopkins, given his leadership track record with the Kinsale Energy Descent Plan, one of the first and well regarded examples of bottom up community response to Peak Oil”.

David Holmgren – co-founder of permaculture.

“Rob Hopkins’s dissertation, “Energy Descent Pathways,” is a thorough analysis both of a problem–the inevitably and probably imminent peak in world oil production–and, more importantly, of the positive policy responses that could help communities and whole societies address it by adapting to a regime of declining petroleum. Whether because of Peak Oil or the need to avert climatic catastrophe, the energy transition away from fossil fuels represents the central imperative of the new century: if we get this transition right, then we will survive to address all of the other challenges facing us as a species–some of which have been around for a very long time, such as economic inequality. But if we don’t succeed with the energy transition, there may be no organized human society or habitable environment left in a hundred years; thus other problems pale in significance by comparison.

“Other discussions of this topic (e.g., by Amory Lovins) emphasize the strategy of substituting other energy sources for fossil fuels. Following the analysis of Howard Odum, Hopkins concludes that substitution will not enable a continuation of current consumption levels; he charts instead a path for “energy descent”–adaptation to a situation of lower levels of energy available per capita. Hopkins wisely includes a discussion of human motivation and behavior, because these will undoubtedly be important factors in shaping societal response to energy scarcity. This is an extremely valuable resource for community leaders and other policy makers, all of whom must make the energy transition their first priority in the years ahead”.

Richard Heinberg – author of ‘The Party’s Over’ and ‘Powerdown’.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.